Category Archives: Small Business

Taboos in PR, What the Biz Exec Needs to Know

Every profession has taboos and things that tarnish reputations and business efforts. Public relations is no different. By knowing the taboos, business executives can do a better job finding the PR team that fits their needs, budget and culture.

7 PR Taboos Revealed, Attention Business Executives

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  1. A Press Release Is Not PR. No matter what anyone tries to sell you, one press release is not a business-changing event—or a public relations (PR) program. It is one component that is usually overused and sometimes useless. Effective PR requires a PR person—someone adept, experienced, creative and comfortable walking the tight rope between client needs and reporter needs. And pricing? NEVER pay more than a $500-$1,000 for someone to write a press release. Ever.
  2. No Value. If you don’t value PR, don’t do PR. Often, PR is perceived as a necessary evil – and a drain on the marketing budget. If the executive team doesn’t believe it can add value, allocate dollars elsewhere. Better yet, have someone explain its value—and how it compares to other communications efforts.
  3. Trust or Bust. If you can’t trust ‘em, fire ‘em. There are quality PR agencies and people who know the rules and boundaries—and have the news noses that matter. Sadly, there are many who don’t.
  4. Play Fair, Play Baseball. Not every news release or PR story idea will be a home run. And nobody hits home runs all the time. Expect PR to be like a baseball game. Sometimes there are first-base hits. Sometimes there are strike-outs. Clarify and manage expectations starting from day one. Be specific. Be real.
  5. Avoid Long Legs. I hate to admit what I’ve seen in my career. I know agencies who strut in the young account ladies to woo the prospects – most of whom were all-male Boomers who lapped up the extravagant beauty in the room. Sexism in galactic proportion. Don’t fall for the oldest trick in the book. Good PR is not sex, sizzle, short skirts and long legs. It’s about news smarts, big ideas, hard work and persistent outreach—and usually works best when involving mature (old), frumpy guys and gals.IMG_8715f
  6. Know What You Pay For. So what should you pay for PR? It depends on scope and breadth, and monthly deliverables, all of which should be in a written plan. I’ve seen consistently successful PR programs for $1,500 per month (a small business client). I also recognize that PR programs can be $10K to $20K/month BUT know what you’re paying for, and avoid nickel-and-dimers.
  7. Madness Over Metrics. It’s the PR Achilles Heel. How the hell do you measure the value of a story in The Dallas Morning News? Is the story all about you? Are you one of several sources quoted in the article? Is your key message embodied in the story? Do you measure by number of “news hits” or rank stories in terms of message, or both? It’s a nightmare. Business executives rarely care to see anything except “tonnage”—the number of articles that includes the company name or an executive quote. There are tools for PR measurement. They cost a lot. In 25-plus years, I’ve had two clients willing to pay for such services. Work with your PR agency on the metrics. Stick to them and revise, as needed. Without metrics, there is no way to ascertain success.

This is not intended to assume that the PR industry or its people are largely flacks and quacks willing to cheat companies and clients. Not. Most PR people are hard-working, family-loving professionals doing a job. With integrity.

Now, share YOUR experience working with PR professionals.

Keep it PRactical.

-R

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Filed under CEO, news release, PR, PR agencies, press release, Public Relations, Small Business

You Matter, Even If You’re “Wrong”

Oh my, the things we do—and have done—to fit in.

As a kid, I can remember roaming the neighborhood with boys that were older than me. Yeah, which means I discovered cigarettes as a 10-year-old, saw my first Playboy by age 11 and found my next-door neighbor’s face stuck to what I thought was a glass vase. A bong.

boy4We all want to fit in, be accepted and be with the “in crowd.” So when we’re rejected, criticized, attacked or set apart—physically, relationally or emotionally—there’s great angst and irritation. Fear. Yet fitting in often conflicts with what is right, what is good, our values, beliefs and professional standards. So therein lies the struggle. So at what price do we choose to fit in? How willing are we to stand up for what we believe is true, good, just or unjust? Can we deal with scorn, rejection, disdain? Hate?

The Burden of Conviction

Professionally, PR folks have a code of ethics. In addition, we each have a personal code of conduct. So are we operating our lives, attitudes and actions in concert with the code, or have we become ambivalent or hardened by what we see and hear every day? I’m guilty. You are too. Yet increasingly, I find myself saying no more. Not now. I can’t allow this or that. I won’t tolerate this action or that inaction. I am re-discovering my personal conviction. It is this burden of conviction that we’ve lost somewhere along the way.

5 Challenges for You & Me

  1.  Be alert. Gulliver should have never taken a nap. Don’t sleep through your life. Awaken the heart and spirit. And mind. Live to effect change.
  2. Be informed. Know your stuff. Read. Read. Read. Study what’s being said, by whom. Ask questions, ask why. Today, information is rarely objective or “simple fact.” Example, if you agree with global warming, know why. If you don’t, know why.
  3. Be active. Knowledge without action is empty air and wasted time. Act. Do. Figure out “your part” at work, at home, in your neighborhood or nonprofit. It is the silent doers in the back that make the most impact. The famous and rich? Rarely.
  4. Be outspoken. There is so much clamoring that it’s often difficult to get a word in edge-wise. Share your convictions. Share what you believe is good and right. Agree to disagree, but enter into discourse and debate.
  5. Be you. Most importantly, you must remain true to who you are, what you believe and what is required of you. You matter. Your opinions are valid, whether I agree or not.

Whether we’re talking about our role in the workplace or as a parent – or as an American citizen tuned into the issues of the nation and world—we must respond to the burden of conviction. It’s about being true to one’s self. Thinking for yourself. And acting.

The time is now.

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Filed under America, PR, Roy Miller, Small Business, Uncategorized

Do Small Businesses Need a Marketing Communications Intervention?

Among small businesses, (500 employees or less), I find it rare that they much in the way of communicating with customers, prospects, suppliers, influencers, and even employees. Why? There are three primary reasons:

  1. Marketing is perceived as mysterious, and seems complicated.
  2. Sales is familiar and seems easy (I hire a sales guy, use Salesforce and dial for dollars).
  3. I’m too busy to think about it or do it (We’re developing products, ensuring service, hiring people, keeping people happy, fighting fires and meeting payroll, etc.).

When they meet communicators, they’re usually interested in what we have to say. We’re excited and more than willing to rattle off exactly what their business needs: “Social media is critical, public relations is essential and your website, sales materials and trade show stuff must be new, fresh, and compelling. And, of course, there’s the issue of your corporate brand and how all of this fits into an overall marketing communications strategy. So, let’s get started.”

The business owner is now catatonic. Eyes are glazed over. Is he or she breathing? Their business brains have gone straight to “oh my god”  and “there’s no way I can do all this—no time, no money, no people.”  We just assassinated our prospect.

Here’s how to slow down and showcase the role of marketing communications for small businesses in 7 simple steps:

  1. Break it down. No company can do everything all the time. Through a simple yet comprehensive planning session with the sales and executive team, we discover the business goals and efforts that are already planned. We align marketing efforts with business efforts. Business goals with marketing goals.
  2. Start small. If the business owner and the team are historically sales focused vs. marketing savvy, it’s critical to start small and get them comfortable with how marketing works—vs. sales. Starting small may mean implementing something as simple as a customer letter that is written, printed and mailed every quarterly. An easy First Step is a brief yet consistent e-mail “newsletter” to customers and prospects.
  3. Budget the basics. The same principle applies here. Don’t scope the marketing program so they have to put a lien on their building. Give them some practical perspectives, share a brief strategy/goals statement, and then break out the steps and tactics with hard numbers. Be precise and specific.
  4. Stay nearby and navigate with care. I find that entrepreneurs thrive amid chaos so keeping efforts focused, synced and timely are often the most difficult parts of the project. Pre-scheduled status meetings per week serve to remind everyone “who’s on first.” Keeping everyone committed, aware and engaged is 95 percent of the success factor.
  5. Make it easy. Do everything you can to eliminate redundancy, delays and to-dos. If it gets you what you need to accomplish the task, meet your client for a drink after hours or do a phone call after they tuck in their kids for bed. Accommodate them.
  6. Show progress. Don’t go silent and not correspond with the client for a week. Tune in, communicate and let them know something’s happening. I add calendar reminders called “Quick Touch/Client A” just so I reach out—even if there’s not a lot to say. Quick and easy.
  7. Step back. In our quest to act and generate results, we may forget the most important action required with clients: to listen. They are the experts in their business. We need to leverage that so we can improve and advance their cause—and ours.

When clients and communicators combine their competencies, long term, the outcome is extraordinary. There is strength in relationships and results.

Please follow me at http://www.twitter.com/practicalpr.

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Filed under marketing communications, PR, Roy G. Miller, Small Business, Uncategorized

F is for … (It’s not what you think)

My kids, they’re ages 20, 16 and 12. Since the days my oldest thought I was The Great Oz, I’ve preached a strong message: There is No Use of the F Word in This House.

My youngest and I were playing hoops one afternoon when I blocked a shot. His brow furrowed and he began complaining. “Dad, you can’t do that, it’s not F—.” He stopped. “Dad, it’s not F-A-I-R.” He spelled the one F word I have never allowed. “I didn’t say it Dad, I spelled it,” he said with a grin. A proud moment, I must admit. Regarding fairness, nothing is and nothing ever will be.  So let’s get over it.

IMG_8715fFor business owners and communicators, there is one F word we never discuss. It’s too personal, invites vulnerability and rattles our confidence.

Failure.  It’s hard to admit. In my life? Oh my, let’s see:

  • Dadhood. My greatest desire in life was to be a great husband and father. FAIL. I just wrapped up a divorce. My kids are wounded as a result. I’m engaged, available, interested and active in their lives. I love them more than life itself. But I made mistakes. And we all pay the price.
  • Perfect PR. I am ambitious, creative and have the temperament that makes me “unique” and “quirky,” per a couple of clients. They qualified the statements, “in a good way …” Yeah. Ha. I strived for perfection for a long time. FYI, if you think you can achieve perfection, find the closest mirror, look at yourself and slap yourself. It ain’t gonna happen on this side of the universe.
  • Money. I had a Dad who was extremely smart and wise about finances. He paid for most of my college. I had a car when I was legal to drive. I had more than I even knew. I haven’t been that wise or savvy so my family’s in a different situation, to my chagrin.

And you? Can you admit failure, and learn from it? I can and can’t. Sometimes I avoid the issue. I deny. I dive into work or other things that distract me and keep me away from reality, recognition and admission. It’s like those 12-Steppers and that first step: Admission begins the road to recovery.

I’m sure not excited about failure in my life. And I offer no Pollyanna advice or happy endings. But I do know that without it, I wouldn’t appreciate the triumphs and victories. And yes, I do feel better knowing that success is often bred from failure (thank God). These folks prove it.

  • Lincoln failed at politics initially. FYI, he became president.
  • Thomas Edison failed – his teachers called him stupid–an idiot who wouldn’t amount to anything.
  • Oprah failed. She was fired from her first TV job.
  • Walt Disney was called “unimaginative” with no good ideas.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC Cinematic Arts program. Several times.
  • Sanders couldn’t get anyone to buy his chicken. And then… yeah.
  • Fred Astaire, initially, was told he couldn’t sing or act. No talent.

See more …

What’s the point? Failing isn’t always the end of something. It can be the beginning. Usually painful, yes. Life changing? Often. But wholly destructive? Not usually.

So go ahead. Fail. Fall. Mourn. Admit.

And then try again.

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Filed under Dallas, PR, Roy G. Miller, Small Business, Small business PR

What’s Newsworthy? Execs, listen up

it’s IHOP and a 1:1 coffee break with a colleague–a company founder and executive–and he’s excited. His $5 million tech company has secured three new clients in the last two weeks. And the new website and partner portal are one pinch from being launched.

“I want us to announce it big–do a news release. Let everyone know that our website is spiffed up. It’s sweet.”

I fight back a yawn while remaining intensely focused on my colleague. How many times have  I sat face to face with a company leader who wants to announce a website re-launch. Dozens of times.

ImageSo my executive friends and business colleagues, please know that your communications consultant isn’t being cynical or superior when he or she resists your suggestion–or dictate–to do a news release about websites or version 3.4256758 of your software.

They’re doing their job. They’re making you look smart while advancing their reputation. Reporters receiving useless “news” go Pavlov when consistently receiving junk from a specific PR person or company. The more crap you send, the louder that Pavlovian “bell” rings and they react: Delete. Deny. Junk it. The DANGER: When you do have real news–real news–that bell will dispel your coverage opportunity.

Newsworthiness matters. It takes diligence, questioning, examining, pushing for validation and key points, identifying what are newsworthy elements–and what will the reporter/writer consider news? A Dallas Morning News reporter wants local relevance; A reporter at Supermarket News wants industry relevance. Your PR person knows the story angle, hooks, and what individual reporters really want.

What did my news radar target when meeting at IHOP with my CEO friend? Not “news release about our website.” I heard New Customers. That’s the news, especially if it’s in a niche industry, the customer offers innovation or is a top brand or publicly held company.

Executives, listen to your PR rep. Leverage their expertise.

PR friends, don’t crank a release out just because the boss “expects it.” Do your best to be strategic, to advise–even politely resist. Let your boss–and his or her boss–know there are other ways and better ways to Tell The Story.

Discover the real news. It matters.

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Filed under Media, news release, PR, press release, Public Relations, Small Business

Finding resuscitation with a little inspiration … and discipline

It’s shameful to admit. But I will. The PRacticalPR blog went on life support last year. At one point I almost pulled the plug. In my typical winterland ruminations, I’ve moved to a place where some self discipline is in order–a real goal or two included–that helps me. And you. That’s the goal. So here we go, reinvigorated, re-set and ready to share what I’ve learned and continue to learn about work, PR, communications … and a whole lot about living. Let’s get started.

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November 28, 2012 · 2:21 pm

Brainstorming Part 2: The Brain & Drain, Team & Triumph

Creation doesn’t necessary require blue skies and fields of dreams.Nor does creating ideas. It can be the stalest of conference rooms or a session room at a hotel.

Creating ideas often requires brainstorming, a gathering of folks who spill their brains and hearts to deliver a barreful of ideas. From that barrel often comes The Big Idea. The Best Idea.

The most ineffective approach to brainstorming? See our last post, but it often involves prima donnas and temperaments. As one BusinessWeek article says,”… it is total nonsense to conclude that if you want creativity, you ought to keep your people in solitary confinement where they can’t ‘waste time’ listening to and building on the ideas of others.”

This time, we’re talking effective brainstorming and how to deliver the best ideas for yourself and your clients.

My favorite—and my mantra on brainstorming:

Follow the rules, or don’t call it a brainstorm. I can’t say it any better than this: … “Alex Osborn’s original four (rules) still work: 1) Don’t allow criticism; 2) Encourage wild ideas; 3) Go for quantity; 4) Combine and/or improve on others’ ideas, plus I’d add “One conversation at a time” and ‘Stay focused on the topics’ as both help save groups from dissolving into disorder.

Claire Allison at the GetSmarter site, shares 10 top brainstorming tips. All 10 aren’t here, but the ones that are particularly important:

Have a moderator. It’s important for someone to be assigned to guide the brainstorming session and to keep track of ideas.

Write everything down. Every idea is valuable. Visual brainstorming is an effective tool that can assist with illustrating perceptions and points of view of different ideas, making room for new ideas.

Bring in an outsider. Bringing in someone who is completely unrelated to the project will give an injection of fresh ideas, which could prove very valuable.

Evaluate the solutions. Stepping back and looking at ideas in their entirety can help identify the best and most workable solution. The most important aspect of brainstorming, in my opinion, is the “understanding that the purpose is to build on and extend the ideas of others” and to bring together the various skills and mindsets of your staff to gather ideas and build on them.  By keeping the session non-competitive, encouraging all ideas, no matter how outlandish, and resisting the urge to impose your own agenda, the group brainstorm can be an effective way to elicit creativity and discover innovation.”

Could it be said better than that?

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Filed under marketing communications, PR, Small Business